Show Report: The Third Annual Nashville Amp Expo


Music City was abuzz well into the night with roaring boutique amplifiers, handwired effects pedals, and custom guitars at the third annual Nashville Amp Expo, which was held August 19-21 at the Hyatt Place Hotel. Roughly 110 vendors from across the U.S. showcased their latest and upcoming offerings, mostly in the realm of tube-powered guitar amps. Most gearheads don’t often get to see, let alone play, tone machines like these from the likes of Ark, Fuchs, Goodsell, Industrial, Nolatone, Tonic, and many other makers—so what a great deal for an entry fee of five bucks a day!

Beyond amps, several pedal builders also were in attendance—including Lotus, Pigtronix, Toadworks, and XAct Tone Solutions—as well as acclaimed luthiers such as Mario Martin, Doug Kauer, and Manuel Delgado. As you’d expect, the Nashville Amp Expo attracted a vast range of amp enthusiasts and players, and the extended hours this year offered everyone the chance to explore the full scope of the show—from the five floors of dealer rooms to the seminars and live performances. Here’s some of the gear that caught our eyes and ears.

Adam Grimm of Satellite Amps obtained the rights to resurrect the White Higher Fidelity amp, a 1x10 combo originally made by Fender and named for Leo Fender’s former colleague Forest White. The circuit is very similar to a tweed Princeton’s, and the Satellite version also uses a single 6V6, one 12AX7, and a 5Y3 rectifier.

The boiler room of the Cusak Kingsnake. This remake of the discontinued Reverend Kingsnake is a single-channel, 60-watt amp with four 12AX7s, two 6L6 power tubes, spring reverb, and an effects loop.

Pedaltrain had the prototype of its largest board to date, the Grande. Measuring 42" wide by 16" deep, it’s a ton of stompbox real estate for serious pedal enthusiasts. The company is making 150 units to test market the board.

The Fuchs Black Jack 21 MkII will soon have a big brother tentatively named the Full Deck 50. Artist feedback has prompted Fuchs to up the power to 45 watts for more clean headroom, but the The Full Deck will have the look, sound, and features of the Black Jack 21.

The Category 5 JB Custom 50 is the company’s latest Joe Bonamassa signature model. The 50-watt, two-channel firebreather boasts two EL34 power tubes. Its gain channel replicates a vintage Marshall Jubilee, and the clean channel is bolstered with a built-in tube-powered boost.

Wampler Pedals SLOstortion is a distortion/boost designed to emulate the sound of the Soldano SLO-100 Super Lead Overdrive amp. The left side of the pedal contains a fully independent boost circuit with Boost and Volume controls. The drive section to the right has Treble, Middle, and Bass controls, and a toggle for selecting overdrive or distortion.

Mojo Hand’s Rook overdrive features a Baxandall tone stack for better EQ control and sound sculpting options. The organic sound of the Rook makes it an ideal “always on” pedal for classic-rock players who need a little extra weight to their tone.

The Caroline Guitar Company Olympia is a silicon-based fuzz that’s designed to cross the line between early Led Zeppelin tones and the Muff-style fuzz sounds that were prominent in ’70s rock and ’90s alternative.

The Pedaltrain Powertrain 1250 is a low-noise DC pedal power supply with five isolated sections. The first section is switchable for 9v, 12v, 15v, or 18v DC and provides up to 150mA. The next three isolated 9v outs deliver 210mA each and have a load dependent voltage control that can be dialed to mimic a weak battery. The last section consists of four parallel 9v outputs that provide a total of 500mA.

Minnesota-based Resonant Electronic Design garnered a lot of attention with the Barely Legal 18, Trophy Wife 30, and the Vicious Cougar 45 shown here. These two-channel (Blonde/Brunette) beauties can pull off equal amounts of chime and crunch, and have a unique footswitchable “Shadow Loop” function that allows effects to be easily activated on the channel you choose.

The 12-watt Elmer from Satellite Amps boasts Volume and Tone controls and bias-style tremolo. The amp, which comes as a head, or as a 1x10 or 1x12 combo, is loaded with a pair of 6AQ5 power tubes and a pair of 12AX7s—one for the preamp and other for the tremolo circuit.

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Steamboat Ampworks new Steamroller 200 bass amp boasts KT-88 power tubes and controls for Gain, Treble, Mid, Bass, and Volume. The gain and EQ controls each sport mini-toggles offering voicing variants. A rear-mounted Body control gives the user extra tone-sculpting options.

The Grease Box from Swamp Works Amplification is a 20-watt combo that boasts two 6V6 power tubes, a half-power switch, and a true-bypass effects loop. The amp features Volume, Tone, and a ‘Lube’ control that allows the player to vary the thickness of the sound. The cabinet can also be configured as a 1x12, a 1x15, or a 2x10.

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